Deputy Labor leader is dragged into corruption scandal as he denies raising money for branch stacking
- Labor MP Anthony Byrne has admitted paying for people’s party memberships
- He said on Wednesday that cash from fundraising events would be used
- One of the events featured Deputy leader Richard Marles as a guest speaker
- Mr Marles said he had ‘no knowledge’ of improper use of cash that was raised
Richard Marles has denied knowing a fundraiser he attended raised cash to pay for Labor memberships in a breach of party rules.
The deputy Labor leader was dragged into an anti-corruption inquiry on Wednesday as lawyers quizzed federal MP Anthony Byrne.
Mr Byrne has admitted paying for people’s party membership fees to boost support for his moderate faction in a practice known as branch stacking.
Richard Marles (pictured) has denied knowing a fundraiser he attended raised cash to pay for Labor memberships in a breach of party rules
On Wednesday he said Labor would hold events to raise the cash, including one in 2016 which Mr Marles spoke at.
‘There would generally be an event that was held normally in either April or May. Party members and others, unions et cetera, would be invited to attend these gatherings,’ Mr Byrne said.
The Holt MP was then shown a leaflet advertising a fundraiser at an Afghan restaurant in Dandenong, south-east Melbourne on Friday 29 April, 2016.
The guest speaker was Mr Marles, who was then shadow minister for immigration.
The leaflet shown at the IBAC hearing
Asked who knew that the money raised would be used for branch stacking, Mr Byrne said: ‘Most of the people that would have attended those functions had a pretty good idea that some of the money that was being raised would go to memberships.’
But a spokeswoman for Mr Marles told Daily Mail Australia he had ‘absolutely no knowledge of anything to do with the funds raised from that event.’
In bombshell evidence before Victorian watchdog IBAC this week, Mr Byrne admitted branch stacking and said he worked alongside state MPs Adem Somyurek and Luke Donnellan, who resigned as Child Protection Minister on Monday.
Mr Somyurek was sacked from state cabinet in June 2020 after 60 Minutes aired allegations that he was involved in branch stacking.
He strongly denies the claims and has launched defamation proceedings against Nine Network, The Age and investigative reporter Nick McKenzie.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has declined to sack Mr Byrne and said he was not aware the MP was involved in branch stacking.
‘I’m not a member of the Victorian branch. Nor do I have a detailed knowledge of the whole electorate and you’d be surprised if I did,’ he said on Tuesday.
‘We will allow IBAC to take their course. It’s not appropriate to pre-empt their findings and those processes.’
Federal minister Alan Tudge said Mr Albanese ‘needs to take strong action.’
‘It is rotten to the core in the Labor Party here in Victoria,’ he told Sky News on Tuesday.
Mr Byrne (pictured) has admitted paying for people’s party membership fees to boost support for his moderate faction in a practice known as branch stacking